The Election, November 9, 2016
Hello, CSU. While I wasn’t planning on a post-election message (I’ve never sent one), comments from across campus and from within my inbox indicate enough collective angst and uncertainty that I thought I’d just share a couple of thoughts.
First, I am no political scientist but I suspect the unexpected results of last evening’s election will take some time and analysis to be put into perspective. One thing seems reasonably clear: Just as many millions of Americans awoke today with a disorienting sense of a world deeply at odds with their beliefs, many millions of other Americans have been struggling through a similar sense of disenfranchisement – and they went to the polls yesterday to make their concerns and desire for change known. What does this mean for us as a campus community? I gave a speech Friday evening where I suggested that part of our challenge come this morning would be to put aside our individual votes and whether our candidate “won” or “lost,” and reframe the issue:
We – one collective American electorate, a chorus of many voices – have elected our President and it now becomes part of our responsibility to help the President-elect and the country move forward. While this may not be easy, it’s also important that we do our best. Although I’m a bigger fan of his 2nd Inaugural Address, Lincoln has a couple of sentences from his 1st Inaugural that I think speak to this point as we attempt to address our own concerns in light of our nation’s divisions: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” He went on to speak of the “better angels of our nature,” and these will be needed from all of us if we are to focus on the commonalities that we share. Commonalities that, when all is said and done, dwarf the differences on which we spend so much of our focus.
This leads me to my next point. While we all have our rights to free and open speech under the First Amendment, it is incumbent on all of us right now to recognize that there are members of our campus community who may feel differently about last night’s election results than we do. There are people on all sides of the political spectrum who have been hurt and made afraid by the stinging political rhetoric and stereotyping that have been hurled back and forth during this election cycle. We are better than this, and I ask that we call on our “better angels” to reach out to one another with kindness and understanding. If you choose to discuss personal politics in the workplace, please be mindful and respectful of others in the room. As members of an academic community, we ought to all hold ourselves to the highest standard of respect and integrity in our communications and interactions with one another, and this includes assuring that the loudest voices in the room don’t drown out the quieter ones. It means that we also celebrate the diversity of voices, viewpoints, and identities that are the strength and hallmark of a learning community. This is who CSU is – in fact, such diversity is at the heart of a land-grant university, created to ensure that all people – no matter their heritage, wealth, or family background – would have access to an excellent, public education. Our Principles of Community speak to this well, and if you haven’t read them, I encourage you to do so. If you have concerns about safety, harassment, or wish to report an incident, please contact our CSUPD at (970) 491-6425. Students who are feeling depressed, anxious or stressed for any reason are encouraged to reach out to the CSU Health Network Counseling Center at (970) 491-6053, a trusted faculty member, or to any of our campus cultural centers. The Employee Assistance Program for CSU employees can connect faculty and staff with community counseling services. The Office of the Vice President for Diversity will be hosting an open discussion session next week for anyone on campus who wants to talk about this. For more information, contact the office at 970-491-6849. Remember, take care of yourselves and each other.
Finally, I hope we can all give ourselves some time as well as assuming the good will and intention of our fellow members in our community. None of us, least of all me, knows what time has in store for our future. At this time last week, the Cubs hadn’t won a World Series, so who knows what is possible? But history may hold some useful lessons for us as we all, whether we’re pleased or disappointed in yesterday’s results, attempt to put an unexpected world into context. Over the rise and fall of the tides of time and history, young people with talent and motivation have turned to knowledge (education in our more modern vernacular) as a tool of self and societal improvement. As a community of scholars, our role to facilitate their success has remained unchanged from the day Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act; it remains our role on November 9, 2016, and it will remain the north star by which we navigate in whatever future seas we find ourselves. For our part at CSU, I’m confident that we will continue to challenge all manner of assumptions and views – from scientific to social – and that we will, as we always have, find ways as an academic community to do so with respect for each other. In doing so, I believe we will continue to be an important catalyst in the improvement of the collective human mind. Let’s keep our eye focused on this; it’s why we exist, it’s important work, work that has always and will always need to be done, and work at which we excel. I look forward, as always, to doing this work with all of you.
Take care of each other and be well.
Dr. Tony Frank